Little Dorrit

Little Dorrit

Little Dorrit/21

CHAPTER 20. Moving in Society

If Young John Chivery had had the inclination and the power to write asatire on family pride, he would have had no need to go for an avengingillustration out of the family of his beloved. He would have found itamply in that gallant brother and that dainty sister, so steeped in meanexperiences, and so loftily conscious of the family name; so readyto beg or borrow from the poorest, to eat of anybody's bread, spendanybody's money, drink from anybody's cup and break it afterwards.To have painted the sordid facts of their lives, and they throughoutinvoking the death's head apparition of the family gentility to come andscare their benefactors, would have made Young John a satirist of thefirst water.

Tip had turned his liberty to hopeful account by becoming abilliard-marker. He had troubled himself so little as to the means ofhis release, that Clennam scarcely needed to have been at the pains ofimpressing the mind of Mr Plornish on that subject. Whoever had paidhim the compliment, he very readily accepted the compliment with _his_compliments, and there was an end of it. Issuing forth from the gateon these easy terms, he became a billiard-marker; and now occasionallylooked in at the little skittle-ground in a green Newmarket coat(second-hand), with a shining collar and bright buttons (new), and drankthe beer of the Collegians.

One solid stationary point in the looseness of this gentleman'scharacter was, that he respected and admired his sister Amy. The feelinghad never induced him to spare her a moment's uneasiness, or to puthimself to any restraint or inconvenience on her account; but with thatMarshalsea taint upon his love, he loved her. The same rank Marshalseaflavour was to be recognised in his distinctly perceiving that shesacrificed her life to her father, and in his having no idea that shehad done anything for himself.

When this spirited young man and his sister had begun systematicallyto produce the family skeleton for the overawing of the College, thisnarrative cannot precisely state. Probably at about the period whenthey began to dine on the College charity. It is certain that the morereduced and necessitous they were, the more pompously the skeletonemerged from its tomb; and that when there was anything particularlyshabby in the wind, the skeleton always came out with the ghastliestflourish.

Little Dorrit was late on the Monday morning, for her father sleptlate, and afterwards there was his breakfast to prepare and his room toarrange. She had no engagement to go out to work, however, and thereforestayed with him until, with Maggy's help, she had put everything rightabout him, and had seen him off upon his morning walk (of twenty yardsor so) to the coffee-house to read the paper. She then got on her bonnetand went out, having been anxious to get out much sooner. There was, asusual, a cessation of the small-talk in the Lodge as she passed throughit; and a Collegian who had come in on Saturday night, received theintimation from the elbow of a more seasoned Collegian, 'Look out. Hereshe is!'

She wanted to see her sister, but when she got round to Mr Cripples's,she found that both her sister and her uncle had gone to the theatrewhere they were engaged. Having taken thought of this probability bythe way, and having settled that in such case she would follow them, sheset off afresh for the theatre, which was on that side of the river, andnot very far away.

Little Dorrit was almost as ignorant of the ways of theatres as of theways of gold mines, and when she was directed to a furtive sort of door,with a curious up-all-night air about it, that appeared to be ashamed ofitself and to be hiding in an alley, she hesitated to approach it; beingfurther deterred by the sight of some half-dozen close-shaved gentlemenwith their hats very strangely on, who were lounging about the door,looking not at all unlike Collegians. On her applying to them, reassuredby this resemblance, for a direction to Miss Dorrit, they made way forher to enter a dark hall--it was more like a great grim lamp gone outthan anything else--where she could hear the distant playing of musicand the sound of dancing feet. A man so much in want of airing that hehad a blue mould upon him, sat watching this dark place from a hole ina corner, like a spider; and he told her that he would send a messageup to Miss Dorrit by the first lady or gentleman who went through. Thefirst lady who went through had a roll of music, half in her muff andhalf out of it, and was in such a tumbled condition altogether, that itseemed as if it would be an act of kindness to iron her. But as she wasvery good-natured, and said, 'Come with me; I'll soon find Miss Dorritfor you,' Miss Dorrit's sister went with her, drawing nearer and nearerat every step she took in the darkness to the sound of music and thesound of dancing feet.

At last they came into a maze of dust, where a quantity of people weretumbling over one another, and where there was such a confusion ofunaccountable shapes of beams, bulkheads, brick walls, ropes, androllers, and such a mixing of gaslight and daylight, that they seemedto have got on the wrong side of the pattern of the universe. LittleDorrit, left to herself, and knocked against by somebody every moment,was quite bewildered, when she heard her sister's voice.

'Why, good gracious, Amy, what ever brought you here?'

'I wanted to see you, Fanny dear; and as I am going out all dayto-morrow, and knew you might be engaged all day to-day, I thought--'

'But the idea, Amy, of _you_ coming behind! I never did!' As her sistersaid this in no very cordial tone of welcome, she conducted her to amore open part of the maze, where various golden chairs and tables wereheaped together, and where a number of young ladies were sitting onanything they could find, chattering. All these young ladies wantedironing, and all had a curious way of looking everywhere while theychattered.

Just as the sisters arrived here, a monotonous boy in a Scotch cap puthis head round a beam on the left, and said, 'Less noise there, ladies!'and disappeared. Immediately after which, a sprightly gentleman with aquantity of long black hair looked round a beam on the right, and said,'Less noise there, darlings!' and also disappeared.

'The notion of you among professionals, Amy, is really the last thingI could have conceived!' said her sister. 'Why, how did you ever gethere?'

'I don't know. The lady who told you I was here, was so good as to bringme in.'

'Like you quiet little things! You can make your way anywhere, Ibelieve. _I_ couldn't have managed it, Amy, though I know so much more ofthe world.'

It was the family custom to lay it down as family law, that she was aplain domestic little creature, without the great and sage experience ofthe rest. This family fiction was the family assertion of itself againsther services. Not to make too much of them.

'Well! And what have you got on your mind, Amy? Of course you havegot something on your mind about me?' said Fanny. She spoke as if hersister, between two and three years her junior, were her prejudicedgrandmother.

'It is not much; but since you told me of the lady who gave you thebracelet, Fanny--'

The monotonous boy put his head round the beam on the left, and said,'Look out there, ladies!' and disappeared. The sprightly gentleman withthe black hair as suddenly put his head round the beam on the right, andsaid, 'Look out there, darlings!' and also disappeared. Thereupon allthe young ladies rose and began shaking their skirts out behind.

'Well, Amy?' said Fanny, doing as the rest did; 'what were you going tosay?'

'Since you told me a lady had given you the bracelet you showed me,Fanny, I have not been quite easy on your account, and indeed want toknow a little more if you will confide more to me.'

'Now, ladies!' said the boy in the Scotch cap. 'Now, darlings!' said thegentleman with the black hair. They were every one gone in a moment, andthe music and the dancing feet were heard again.

Little Dorrit sat down in a golden chair, made quite giddy by theserapid interruptions. Her sister and the rest were a long time gone; andduring their absence a voice (it appeared to be that of the gentlemanwith the black hair) was continually calling out through the music,'One, two, three, four, five, six--go! One, two, three, four, five,six--go! Steady, darlings! One, two, three, four, five, six--go!'Ultimately the voice stopped, and they all came back again, more or lessout of breath, folding themselves in their shawls, and making readyfor the streets. 'Stop a moment, Amy, and let them get away beforeus,' whispered Fanny. They were soon left alone; nothing more importanthappening, in the meantime, than the boy looking round his old beam, andsaying, 'Everybody at eleven to-morrow, ladies!' and the gentleman withthe black hair looking round his old beam, and saying, 'Everybody ateleven to-morrow, darlings!' each in his own accustomed manner.

When they were alone, something was rolled up or by other means got outof the way, and there was a great empty well before them, looking downinto the depths of which Fanny said, 'Now, uncle!' Little Dorrit, as hereyes became used to the darkness, faintly made him out at the bottom ofthe well, in an obscure corner by himself, with his instrument in itsragged case under his arm.

The old man looked as if the remote high gallery windows, with theirlittle strip of sky, might have been the point of his better fortunes,from which he had descended, until he had gradually sunk down belowthere to the bottom. He had been in that place six nights a week formany years, but had never been observed to raise his eyes above hismusic-book, and was confidently believed to have never seen a play.There were legends in the place that he did not so much as know thepopular heroes and heroines by sight, and that the low comedian had'mugged' at him in his richest manner fifty nights for a wager, and hehad shown no trace of consciousness. The carpenters had a joke to theeffect that he was dead without being aware of it; and the frequentersof the pit supposed him to pass his whole life, night and day, andSunday and all, in the orchestra. They had tried him a few times withpinches of snuff offered over the rails, and he had always responded tothis attention with a momentary waking up of manner that had the palephantom of a gentleman in it: beyond this he never, on any occasion, hadany other part in what was going on than the part written out for theclarionet; in private life, where there was no part for the clarionet,he had no part at all. Some said he was poor, some said he was a wealthymiser; but he said nothing, never lifted up his bowed head, never variedhis shuffling gait by getting his springless foot from the ground.Though expecting now to be summoned by his niece, he did not hear heruntil she had spoken to him three or four times; nor was he at allsurprised by the presence of two nieces instead of one, but merely saidin his tremulous voice, 'I am coming, I am coming!' and crept forth bysome underground way which emitted a cellarous smell.

'And so, Amy,' said her sister, when the three together passed out atthe door that had such a shame-faced consciousness of being differentfrom other doors: the uncle instinctively taking Amy's arm as the arm tobe relied on: 'so, Amy, you are curious about me?'

She was pretty, and conscious, and rather flaunting; and thecondescension with which she put aside the superiority of her charms,and of her worldly experience, and addressed her sister on almost equalterms, had a vast deal of the family in it.

'I am interested, Fanny, and concerned in anything that concerns you.'

'So you are, so you are, and you are the best of Amys. If I am ever alittle provoking, I am sure you'll consider what a thing it is tooccupy my position and feel a consciousness of being superior to it. Ishouldn't care,' said the Daughter of the Father of the Marshalsea, 'ifthe others were not so common. None of them have come down in the worldas we have. They are all on their own level. Common.'

Little Dorrit mildly looked at the speaker, but did not interrupt her.Fanny took out her handkerchief, and rather angrily wiped her eyes. 'Iwas not born where you were, you know, Amy, and perhaps that makes adifference. My dear child, when we get rid of Uncle, you shall know allabout it. We'll drop him at the cook's shop where he is going to dine.'

They walked on with him until they came to a dirty shop window in adirty street, which was made almost opaque by the steam of hot meats,vegetables, and puddings. But glimpses were to be caught of a roast legof pork bursting into tears of sage and onion in a metal reservoir fullof gravy, of an unctuous piece of roast beef and blisterous Yorkshirepudding, bubbling hot in a similar receptacle, of a stuffed fillet ofveal in rapid cut, of a ham in a perspiration with the pace it was goingat, of a shallow tank of baked potatoes glued together by their ownrichness, of a truss or two of boiled greens, and other substantialdelicacies. Within, were a few wooden partitions, behind which suchcustomers as found it more convenient to take away their dinners instomachs than in their hands, Packed their purchases in solitude. Fannyopening her reticule, as they surveyed these things, produced from thatrepository a shilling and handed it to Uncle. Uncle, after not lookingat it a little while, divined its object, and muttering 'Dinner? Ha!Yes, yes, yes!' slowly vanished from them into the mist.

'Now, Amy,' said her sister, 'come with me, if you are not too tired towalk to Harley Street, Cavendish Square.'

The air with which she threw off this distinguished address and the tossshe gave to her new bonnet (which was more gauzy than serviceable), madeher sister wonder; however, she expressed her readiness to go to HarleyStreet, and thither they directed their steps. Arrived at that granddestination, Fanny singled out the handsomest house, and knocking at thedoor, inquired for Mrs Merdle. The footman who opened the door, althoughhe had powder on his head and was backed up by two other footmenlikewise powdered, not only admitted Mrs Merdle to be at home, but askedFanny to walk in. Fanny walked in, taking her sister with her; and theywent up-stairs with powder going before and powder stopping behind,and were left in a spacious semicircular drawing-room, one of severaldrawing-rooms, where there was a parrot on the outside of a golden cageholding on by its beak, with its scaly legs in the air, and puttingitself into many strange upside-down postures. This peculiarity has beenobserved in birds of quite another feather, climbing upon golden wires.

The room was far more splendid than anything Little Dorrit had everimagined, and would have been splendid and costly in any eyes. Shelooked in amazement at her sister and would have asked a question,but that Fanny with a warning frown pointed to a curtained doorway ofcommunication with another room. The curtain shook next moment, and alady, raising it with a heavily ringed hand, dropped it behind her againas she entered.

The lady was not young and fresh from the hand of Nature, but was youngand fresh from the hand of her maid. She had large unfeeling handsomeeyes, and dark unfeeling handsome hair, and a broad unfeeling handsomebosom, and was made the most of in every particular. Either because shehad a cold, or because it suited her face, she wore a rich whitefillet tied over her head and under her chin. And if ever there werean unfeeling handsome chin that looked as if, for certain, it had neverbeen, in familiar parlance, 'chucked' by the hand of man, it was thechin curbed up so tight and close by that laced bridle.

'Mrs Merdle,' said Fanny. 'My sister, ma'am.'

'I am glad to see your sister, Miss Dorrit. I did not remember that youhad a sister.'

'I did not mention that I had,' said Fanny.

'Ah!' Mrs Merdle curled the little finger of her left hand as who shouldsay, 'I have caught you. I know you didn't!' All her action was usuallywith her left hand because her hands were not a pair; and left beingmuch the whiter and plumper of the two. Then she added: 'Sit down,' andcomposed herself voluptuously, in a nest of crimson and gold cushions,on an ottoman near the parrot.

'Also professional?' said Mrs Merdle, looking at Little Dorrit throughan eye-glass.

Fanny answered No. 'No,' said Mrs Merdle, dropping her glass. 'Has not aprofessional air. Very pleasant; but not professional.'

'My sister, ma'am,' said Fanny, in whom there was a singular mixtureof deference and hardihood, 'has been asking me to tell her, as betweensisters, how I came to have the honour of knowing you. And as I hadengaged to call upon you once more, I thought I might take the libertyof bringing her with me, when perhaps you would tell her. I wish her toknow, and perhaps you will tell her?'

'Do you think, at your sister's age--' hinted Mrs Merdle.

'She is much older than she looks,' said Fanny; 'almost as old as I am.'

'Society,' said Mrs Merdle, with another curve of her little finger, 'isso difficult to explain to young persons (indeed is so difficult toexplain to most persons), that I am glad to hear that. I wish Societywas not so arbitrary, I wish it was not so exacting--Bird, be quiet!'

The parrot had given a most piercing shriek, as if its name were Societyand it asserted its right to its exactions.

'But,' resumed Mrs Merdle, 'we must take it as we find it. We know it ishollow and conventional and worldly and very shocking, but unless weare Savages in the Tropical seas (I should have been charmed to be onemyself--most delightful life and perfect climate, I am told), wemust consult it. It is the common lot. Mr Merdle is a most extensivemerchant, his transactions are on the vastest scale, his wealth andinfluence are very great, but even he--Bird, be quiet!'

The parrot had shrieked another shriek; and it filled up the sentence soexpressively that Mrs Merdle was under no necessity to end it.

'Since your sister begs that I would terminate our personalacquaintance,' she began again, addressing Little Dorrit, 'by relatingthe circumstances that are much to her credit, I cannot object to complywith her request, I am sure. I have a son (I was first married extremelyyoung) of two or three-and-twenty.'

Fanny set her lips, and her eyes looked half triumphantly at her sister.

'A son of two or three-and-twenty. He is a little gay, a thing Societyis accustomed to in young men, and he is very impressible. Perhaps heinherits that misfortune. I am very impressible myself, by nature. Theweakest of creatures--my feelings are touched in a moment.'

She said all this, and everything else, as coldly as a woman of snow;quite forgetting the sisters except at odd times, and apparentlyaddressing some abstraction of Society; for whose behoof, too, sheoccasionally arranged her dress, or the composition of her figure uponthe ottoman.

'So he is very impressible. Not a misfortune in our natural state I daresay, but we are not in a natural state. Much to be lamented, no doubt,particularly by myself, who am a child of nature if I could but show it;but so it is. Society suppresses us and dominates us--Bird, be quiet!'

The parrot had broken into a violent fit of laughter, after twistingdivers bars of his cage with his crooked bill, and licking them with hisblack tongue.

'It is quite unnecessary to say to a person of your good sense, widerange of experience, and cultivated feeling,' said Mrs Merdle from hernest of crimson and gold--and there put up her glass to refresh hermemory as to whom she was addressing,--'that the stage sometimes hasa fascination for young men of that class of character. In saying thestage, I mean the people on it of the female sex. Therefore, when Iheard that my son was supposed to be fascinated by a dancer, I knew whatthat usually meant in Society, and confided in her being a dancer at theOpera, where young men moving in Society are usually fascinated.'

She passed her white hands over one another, observant of the sistersnow; and the rings upon her fingers grated against each other with ahard sound.

'As your sister will tell you, when I found what the theatre was I wasmuch surprised and much distressed. But when I found that your sister,by rejecting my son's advances (I must add, in an unexpected manner),had brought him to the point of proposing marriage, my feelings wereof the profoundest anguish--acute.'

She traced the outline of her left eyebrow, and put it right.

'In a distracted condition, which only a mother--moving in Society--canbe susceptible of, I determined to go myself to the theatre, andrepresent my state of mind to the dancer. I made myself known to yoursister. I found her, to my surprise, in many respects different frommy expectations; and certainly in none more so, than in meeting mewith--what shall I say--a sort of family assertion on her own part?' MrsMerdle smiled.

'I told you, ma'am,' said Fanny, with a heightening colour, 'thatalthough you found me in that situation, I was so far above the rest,that I considered my family as good as your son's; and that I had abrother who, knowing the circumstances, would be of the same opinion,and would not consider such a connection any honour.'

'Miss Dorrit,' said Mrs Merdle, after frostily looking at her throughher glass, 'precisely what I was on the point of telling your sister,in pursuance of your request. Much obliged to you for recalling itso accurately and anticipating me. I immediately,' addressing LittleDorrit, '(for I am the creature of impulse), took a bracelet from myarm, and begged your sister to let me clasp it on hers, in token ofthe delight I had in our being able to approach the subject so far ona common footing.' (This was perfectly true, the lady having bought acheap and showy article on her way to the interview, with a general eyeto bribery.)

'And I told you, Mrs Merdle,' said Fanny, 'that we might be unfortunate,but we are not common.'

'I think, the very words, Miss Dorrit,' assented Mrs Merdle.

'And I told you, Mrs Merdle,' said Fanny, 'that if you spoke to meof the superiority of your son's standing in Society, it was barelypossible that you rather deceived yourself in your suppositions about myorigin; and that my father's standing, even in the Society in whichhe now moved (what that was, was best known to myself), was eminentlysuperior, and was acknowledged by every one.'

'Quite accurate,' rejoined Mrs Merdle. 'A most admirable memory.'

'Thank you, ma'am. Perhaps you will be so kind as to tell my sister therest.'

'There is very little to tell,' said Mrs Merdle, reviewing the breadthof bosom which seemed essential to her having room enough to beunfeeling in, 'but it is to your sister's credit. I pointed out to yoursister the plain state of the case; the impossibility of the Societyin which we moved recognising the Society in which she moved--thoughcharming, I have no doubt; the immense disadvantage at which she wouldconsequently place the family she had so high an opinion of, upon whichwe should find ourselves compelled to look down with contempt, andfrom which (socially speaking) we should feel obliged to recoil withabhorrence. In short, I made an appeal to that laudable pride in yoursister.'

'Let my sister know, if you please, Mrs Merdle,' Fanny pouted, with atoss of her gauzy bonnet, 'that I had already had the honour of tellingyour son that I wished to have nothing whatever to say to him.'

'Well, Miss Dorrit,' assented Mrs Merdle, 'perhaps I might havementioned that before. If I did not think of it, perhaps it was becausemy mind reverted to the apprehensions I had at the time that he mightpersevere and you might have something to say to him. I also mentionedto your sister--I again address the non-professional Miss Dorrit--thatmy son would have nothing in the event of such a marriage, and would bean absolute beggar. (I mention that merely as a fact which is part ofthe narrative, and not as supposing it to have influenced your sister,except in the prudent and legitimate way in which, constituted as ourartificial system is, we must all be influenced by such considerations.)Finally, after some high words and high spirit on the part of yoursister, we came to the complete understanding that there was no danger;and your sister was so obliging as to allow me to present her with amark or two of my appreciation at my dressmaker's.'

Little Dorrit looked sorry, and glanced at Fanny with a troubled face.

'Also,' said Mrs Merdle, 'as to promise to give me the present pleasureof a closing interview, and of parting with her on the best of terms.On which occasion,' added Mrs Merdle, quitting her nest, and puttingsomething in Fanny's hand, 'Miss Dorrit will permit me to say Farewellwith best wishes in my own dull manner.'

The sisters rose at the same time, and they all stood near the cage ofthe parrot, as he tore at a claw-full of biscuit and spat it out, seemedto mock them with a pompous dance of his body without moving his feet,and suddenly turned himself upside down and trailed himself all overthe outside of his golden cage, with the aid of his cruel beak and blacktongue.

'Adieu, Miss Dorrit, with best wishes,' said Mrs Merdle. 'If we couldonly come to a Millennium, or something of that sort, I for one mighthave the pleasure of knowing a number of charming and talented personsfrom whom I am at present excluded. A more primitive state of societywould be delicious to me. There used to be a poem when I learnt lessons,something about Lo the poor Indians whose something mind! If a fewthousand persons moving in Society, could only go and be Indians, Iwould put my name down directly; but as, moving in Society, we can't beIndians, unfortunately--Good morning!'

They came down-stairs with powder before them and powder behind, theelder sister haughty and the younger sister humbled, and were shut outinto unpowdered Harley Street, Cavendish Square.

'Well?' said Fanny, when they had gone a little way without speaking.'Have you nothing to say, Amy?'

'Oh, I don't know what to say!' she answered, distressed. 'You didn'tlike this young man, Fanny?'

'Like him? He is almost an idiot.'

'I am so sorry--don't be hurt--but, since you ask me what I have tosay, I am so very sorry, Fanny, that you suffered this lady to give youanything.'

'You little Fool!' returned her sister, shaking her with the sharp pullshe gave her arm. 'Have you no spirit at all? But that's just the way!You have no self-respect, you have no becoming pride, just as you allowyourself to be followed about by a contemptible little Chivery of athing,' with the scornfullest emphasis, 'you would let your family betrodden on, and never turn.'

'Don't say that, dear Fanny. I do what I can for them.'

'You do what you can for them!' repeated Fanny, walking her on veryfast. 'Would you let a woman like this, whom you could see, if you hadany experience of anything, to be as false and insolent as a woman canbe--would you let her put her foot upon your family, and thank her forit?'

'No, Fanny, I am sure.'

'Then make her pay for it, you mean little thing. What else can you makeher do? Make her pay for it, you stupid child; and do your family somecredit with the money!'

They spoke no more all the way back to the lodging where Fanny and heruncle lived. When they arrived there, they found the old man practisinghis clarionet in the dolefullest manner in a corner of the room.Fanny had a composite meal to make, of chops, and porter, and tea; andindignantly pretended to prepare it for herself, though her sister didall that in quiet reality. When at last Fanny sat down to eat and drink,she threw the table implements about and was angry with her bread, muchas her father had been last night.

'If you despise me,' she said, bursting into vehement tears, 'because Iam a dancer, why did you put me in the way of being one? It was yourdoing. You would have me stoop as low as the ground before this MrsMerdle, and let her say what she liked and do what she liked, and holdus all in contempt, and tell me so to my face. Because I am a dancer!'

'O Fanny!'

'And Tip, too, poor fellow. She is to disparage him just as much as shelikes, without any check--I suppose because he has been in the law, andthe docks, and different things. Why, it was your doing, Amy. You mightat least approve of his being defended.'

All this time the uncle was dolefully blowing his clarionet in thecorner, sometimes taking it an inch or so from his mouth for a momentwhile he stopped to gaze at them, with a vague impression that somebodyhad said something.

'And your father, your poor father, Amy. Because he is not free to showhimself and to speak for himself, you would let such people insult himwith impunity. If you don't feel for yourself because you go out towork, you might at least feel for him, I should think, knowing what hehas undergone so long.'

Poor Little Dorrit felt the injustice of this taunt rather sharply.The remembrance of last night added a barbed point to it. She saidnothing in reply, but turned her chair from the table towards the fire.Uncle, after making one more pause, blew a dismal wail and went onagain.

Fanny was passionate with the tea-cups and the bread as long as herpassion lasted, and then protested that she was the wretchedest girl inthe world, and she wished she was dead. After that, her crying becameremorseful, and she got up and put her arms round her sister. LittleDorrit tried to stop her from saying anything, but she answered thatshe would, she must! Thereupon she said again, and again, 'I beg yourpardon, Amy,' and 'Forgive me, Amy,' almost as passionately as she hadsaid what she regretted.

'But indeed, indeed, Amy,' she resumed when they were seated in sisterlyaccord side by side, 'I hope and I think you would have seen thisdifferently, if you had known a little more of Society.'

'Perhaps I might, Fanny,' said the mild Little Dorrit.

'You see, while you have been domestic and resignedly shut up there,Amy,' pursued her sister, gradually beginning to patronise, 'I havebeen out, moving more in Society, and may have been getting proud andspirited--more than I ought to be, perhaps?'

Little Dorrit answered 'Yes. O yes!'

'And while you have been thinking of the dinner or the clothes, I mayhave been thinking, you know, of the family. Now, may it not be so,Amy?'

Little Dorrit again nodded 'Yes,' with a more cheerful face than heart.

'Especially as we know,' said Fanny, 'that there certainly is a tone inthe place to which you have been so true, which does belong to it, andwhich does make it different from other aspects of Society. So kiss meonce again, Amy dear, and we will agree that we may both be right, andthat you are a tranquil, domestic, home-loving, good girl.'

The clarionet had been lamenting most pathetically during this dialogue,but was cut short now by Fanny's announcement that it was time to go;which she conveyed to her uncle by shutting up his scrap of music, andtaking the clarionet out of his mouth.

Little Dorrit parted from them at the door, and hastened back to theMarshalsea. It fell dark there sooner than elsewhere, and going into itthat evening was like going into a deep trench. The shadow of the wallwas on every object. Not least upon the figure in the old grey gown andthe black velvet cap, as it turned towards her when she opened the doorof the dim room.

'Why not upon me too!' thought Little Dorrit, with the door yet in herhand. 'It was not unreasonable in Fanny.'